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Research Paper: Annotated Bibliography

How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents and follows the appropriate style format for the discipline, i.e., MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, etc. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Unlike abstracts which are purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes, annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority.

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

Guides and Samples

Writing an Annotated Bibliography: The Process


Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research

  • First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic.
  • Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic.
  • Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style.
  • Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that:

o    evaluate the authority or background of the author,

o    comment on the intended audience,

o    compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or

o    explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic.

The annotation should include most, if not all, of the following:

  • Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work;
  • Brief description of the work's format and content;
  • Theoretical basis and currency of the author's argument;
  • Author's intellectual/academic credentials;
  • Work's intended audience;
  • Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration;
  • Possible shortcomings or bias in the work;
  • Any significant special features of the work (e.g., glossary, appendices, particularly good index);
  • Your own brief impression of the work.

An annotated bibliography is an original work created by you for a wider audience, usually faculty and colleagues. Copying any of the above elements is plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty.